What is hypnosis?

Dave Elman in his legendary book “Hypnotherapy” defines hypnosis as a “state of mind in which the critical factor is bypassed and acceptable selective thinking is established”.

By the critical factor we understand that part of the mind which judges, evaluates, whether the information given is true or false. For example, if somebody told you that you are a giraffe, of course you will reject that suggestion, because you well know that it is not so. However, if you were hypnotized, your mind will treat that suggestion as true, and you would behave accordingly.

A more modern approach to hypnosis, congruent with new schools (e.g. Hypnosis Without Trance by J. Tripp, Automatic Imagination Model by A. Jacquin and K. Sheldrake), is defining hypnosis in two points:

  • Hypnosis is the process of bypassing the critical factor of the person being hypnotized.
  • Hypnotic trance is the state in which that bypass is stabilized.

The hypnotized person is given suggestions. Being hypnotized, their critical factor can not do much, however the person is still fully aware and conscious, and remains in full control over themselves. They can accept suggestions or reject them. Whether they do depends however not on their conscious thinking, but on their emotional attitude towards the suggestions.

There are two requirements which must be fulfilled in order to hypnotize someone:

  1. The person must want to be hypnotized.
  2. The person cannot fear hypnosis.

Relating to the second point, it is a misunderstanding that hypnosis is something which is “done” to somebody. It is a misconception which came to be as a result of fallacies connected with classical hypnosis , e.g. mesmerism, magnetism, which relies on the erroneous assumption that the hypnotist is affecting the hypnotee (also called a “hypnotic subject) by manipulating “energy”, “animal magnetism” and so on.

Returning to the truth; hypnosis is a process which relies on the cooperation between the hypnotist and the hypnotee. The hypnotist guides the process by giving suggestions, while the hypnotee realizes those suggestions exactly as they are given them, and only when they are given them.

The so-called hypnotic contract illustrates this, and sounds more or less like this:
“On my part, I promise to guide you through the process of hypnosis with full respect to you, and in the most professional manner as I can. On your part, I expect that you will realize my instructions exactly as you hear them, when you hear in them, adding nothing, subtracting nothing. Do you agree?”

If the above requirements are fulfilled and the hypnotist is competent, anyone can be hypnotized, quickly, easily, and in a pleasant way.


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